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Are you separated from a partner?

Are you separated from a partner? Rainbow Families is developing a resource for separating parents in our community. 

Last year we held some focus groups. If you were not able to make these but still want to share your story, you can by completing this anonymous survey.

We would like to consult with any parents who have experience of this and hear what information you needed or need, what helped you, what wasn’t great, and what advice you would offer other parents going through this process. We want to hear from parents that have had positive cooperative experiences,  as well as any that are navigating hard and complex issues and systems. We aim to develop a resource that is relevant and authentic.

We are keen to hear about any legal issues and needs, emotional support, how to support children, dealing with school after,  and any special considerations for LGBTQIA+ parents

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Trans parenting, journey of gay dads, and children tell their story

Rainbow Families presents at Better Together Conference

We are so proud of our work to support trans and gender diverse parents. Jac Tomlins has been researching and collating stories for a soon to be published Trans and Gender Diverse Parents Guide. Jac facilitated a session that included the stories of Alison, Kerry & Al. This guide forms part of the All Families (link) project that was funded by our community, and will be launched in May this year. 

The dads were up early on Saturday morning to share their journey about their gay parenting story. The panel included families made in partnerships with lesbians, via altruistic surrogacy, via fostering to adoption, international surrogacy, and pervious heterosexual relationship. It was a warm open discussion about love, perseverance and the joys and challenges of parenting. 

The Youth Advisory Council presented the last session for the conference. Charlie, Alex, Amali, Adara and Luca shared their stories. This session offered an opportunity for children in our community to develop public speaking and presentation skills. It was well received with feedback that it was honest, disarming, courageous and completely charming.

Better Together 2019 was a national conference organised by The Equality Project. The conference aims to facilitate a conversation about LGBTIQ+ rights in Australia. 

 

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Penrith Playgroup

Western Sydney Parents get ready for a new Rainbow Families Playgroup in Penrith! 

The Penrith Rainbow Families Playgroup runs from the Emu Heights Nehigbourhood Centre and provides parents and carers with an opportunity to meet other parents, make friends and share experiences and ideas. Children have fun, make new friends and develop through play. Playgroup is for newborns through to school aged children.

The group is 100% volunteer run by LGBTIQA+ parents, and is part of the network of Playgroup NSW, which is very excited to support the group.

 All playgroups depend on new memberships and families getting involved to help them grow and keep them running. We would love local families to come and be part of this new community. 

For more information on the Penrith playgroup check out the Facebook group, or just turn up on the day - you are welcome to try two sessions before deciding to join Playgroups NSW. The weekly session fees are $5 and a piece of fruit to share for morning tea. 

Where: Emu Heights Neighbourhood Centre - 38 Wedmore Rd, Emu Heights

When: Fridays from 10:00am to 12:00pm

Starting: February 8th

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Trans and Gender Diverse Parents Guide - Panel Discussion at Better Together

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Rainbow Families’ crowd-funded All Families Guide for Trans and Gender Diverse Parents is nearing completion!

As part of launching the guide, some of those who have contributed their stories to the guide will join the author Jac Tomlins on a panel at the Better Together conference, this Friday 11th January.

Drafts of the guide have been circulated for review, and some great feedback has already been received:

“Some of the literature that I have seen suggested that the challenges faced by people who are transitioning are so overwhelming that they cannot and/or do not focus on anything else. Your interviewees demonstrated that this is just not true!”


”I found the comments relating to passing and also the issues of diversity particularly powerful. Ultimately, we are all human beings and our families are all families, whatever shape, size or format they take.”

If you are attending the conference please come and say hi to those on the panel, otherwise we hope to be launching the guide at this year’s International Family Equality Day.

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Erskineville Playgroup is moving

When someone in our community first becomes a parent, a Rainbow Families playgroups is often their first connection to the community. Some families may be isolated or not know many other parents, and arrive to find a friendly welcome. It’s a place for parents to get support with a new baby and for children to have a sense of community through friendships and play.

 The Erskineville playgroup has been running in various forms for over 12 years, and has been passed on from one active volunteer parent to another over these years. For anyone that has come to playgroup this year you will have met Gill who kindly volunteers her time each Thursday to open up and welcome the families that come to playgroup. 

In 2019 playgroup will be moving just up the road to the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre  as our current venue is being renovated. It will still be $3 per family, and morning tea will still happen so keep bringing your fruit along to share with the group. This space is on level one, so you will need to hop in the lift if you have a pram. We are bringing all of the kids favourite toys with us so hopefully everyone will have just as much fun as usual.

Rainbow families is excited about the partnership with Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, and think playgroup is the first of many potential projects we can work on together. The children at playgroup - with a little help from their parents have been decorating a new street library that will be a feature outside the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre next year.

The fist playgroup at Newtown Neighbhood Centre will be on Thursday January 31st.  


We look forward to seeing you soon.

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2018 Annual Report

The Rainbow Families 2018 Annual Report is a great way to catch up on all of the wonderful things we have achieved this year.

Hear about the playgroups and regional catch ups we support, the 7 submission our advocacy team has worked on this year, and all of the huge events we have put on for LGBTIQA+ parents in NSW.

Download Report

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Self care during the festive season

The summer break is a big one. Many kids are home from school or studies for at least 6 weeks and families are having to juggle parenting, child care and employment. On top of that you have the pressures of the festive season, parties, social obligations and family.

This time of year can also be particularly challenging for some families who are facing prejudice and judgement from close family, friends and relatives. Often we also have the mix of alcohol and mental health challenges that can really add to the toll.

We need to ask ourselves one question: During one of the most intensely emotional, busy and expensive times of the year...how can I look after myself?

Here are some helpful tips that have worked for many parents and caregivers:

  1. Have a close contact person you can reach out to when it just gets too much, you just need to vent, ask for help or get some reassurance.

  2. Ask for help. This can be a hard task to do for many parents but an important one to keep in mind.

  3. Get some rest and eat well - when you can.

  4. Don’t stress. Often children’s habits and practices change over the summer break with school finishes and days are filled with busy times, visiting relatives, going overseas...it might mean their bedtimes and routines might be a little different than usual. Understand that this is ok for many families, and often a few days into the holidays things level out. It’s a huge time for the kiddos as well!

  5. Embrace your inner child. Childhood is a small time in one’s life, it goes very fast, embrace it, have cuddles, keep things simple, play games and be silly. The kids will have fond memories of these moments!

  6. You can say “no”. Being invited to many catch ups, parties, drinks….you can say “no” if you feel it is getting too much. You can also leave early and that’s ok too.

  7. Check in with your mental health. If you find yourself in a situation that is affecting it, reach out to someone.


Self care can mean different things to different people. Consider what does it mean to you? How can you fit it into your life?

And finally, have fun. 2018 was a big year! You did such an awesome job parenting!

Resources:

Rainbow Families Facebook Community Group

Lifeline 13 11 14

Beyondblue 1300 22 4636

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Life after death: social media in the afterlife

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Life after death: social media in the afterlife

Dowson Turco Lawyers’ Nicholas Stewart sets out the rules for social media in the afterlife

My partner came to me upset the other night when he saw a Brazilian “friend’s” Instagram post and the comments beneath it. The post depicted a happy guy on a beach in Rio de Janeiro, but the comments told a sadder story. He had died and followers from across the world were grieving, posting their tributes to someone they either knew personally or connected with in the world of Instagram.

So what happens when your digital presence survives you? Do the Instagram gods terminate your account so that it follows you to the grave? No, they don’t. Your account stays alive and, unless you’ve granted someone else access (and they in turn delete your accounts) or Instagram has been notified of your death and has consequently “memorialised” your account, your profile will remain active but suspended in time, showing your most recent post as your last.

And it’s important to know that Instagram prohibits the transfer of profile rights to third parties - doing so breaches the terms of use. Instagram will also memorialise an account if it receives “valid” notice in the form of a report on the app with a link to a published obituary or other proof of death.

The effect of memorialisation is the account becomes frozen. Instagram will “try” to prevent references to the account from appearing on Instagram in ways that may be upsetting to the deceased person's friends and family, and will also “take measures to protect the privacy of the deceased person by securing the account”.

How is this possible? Well, the fine print to your Instagram account will tell you a few things such as:

(1) you own the content on your profile;

(2) you give Instagram a royalty-free, non-exclusive and royalty-free licence to do what it likes with your content;

(3) you cannot transfer your rights to any other person without Instagram’s consent; and

(4) Instagram can use, modify, copy, translate and create derivatives of your content whenever it likes and forever into the future.

Instagram’s terms of use also tell us that legal representatives for a deceased person (namely the deceased’s executor and trustee as appointed in their will) has the power to liaise with Instagram as to the account and may even seek the consent of Instagram to keep the account running without making it memorialised.

The upshot of all of this is it is best practice to have a will that not only deals with your money, real estate, shares and personal belongings, but also directs your executor and trustee to manage your social media accounts according to specific directions.

That means that you can give instructions to the executor/s of your estate to terminate your accounts upon your death or maintain your accounts posthumously for the purposes of continuing your online legacy. But if your executors are instructed to run the accounts in your afterlife (or whatever it is), they should bear in mind Instagram’s requirement that profiles not mislead, and it is advisable that your executor and trustee seek the consent of Instagram if your directions are to run the account without it becoming memorialised.

Contact our estates team for a free telephone appointment and quotes: 9519 3088 or enquiries@dowsonturco.com.au

Nicholas Stewart is a partner at LGBTI law firm Dowson Turco Lawyers and a director of Rainbow Families.

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Supporting LGBTIQA+ families in their human milk feeding and lactation journeys

In November Rainbow Families and the Australian Breastfeeding Association met to discuss piloting a human milk feeding and lactation education program for LGBTQIA+ families. This exciting project is funded generously from the Vashudara Foundation.

It is widely acknowledged globally (including in Australia) that human milk feeding is the “natural and ideal way of feeding the infant and a unique biological and emotional basis for child development” UNICEF, Geneva, 1979. It is also known globally that the World Health Organisation recommends all children are fed human milk exclusively for the first 6 months of life and beyond.

Human milk feeding and lactation can look differently to different families, yet a lot of information and support out there is geared towards cis heteronormative families. The reality is every family is unique and diverse even within our Rainbow community. Having great information and support to reflect that is key. Within NSW, there is also currently no classes for LGBTIQA+ parents to learn how to feed their child/children in a safe and inclusive environment where they can ask specific questions and share their personal stories related to their unique circumstances.

The project aims to including information on nursing, co nursing/co feeding, use of supplemental nursing systems and other ways to feed a baby human milk. The project aims to be inclusive of all LGBTQIA+ families including those who identify as trans and gender diverse or non binary. The content will be developed by the Australian Breastfeeding Association in partnership with Rainbow Families to ensure the information is supportive and inclusive. The project will involve education classes and the development of a resource specific to LGBTQIA+ families who are looking at human milk feeding and lactation.

We are so excited about this opportunity and having great, evidence based information and support that is specific to our LGBTQIA+ community.

 

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Trans and Gender Diverse Parents Guide - Update

Work on the crowd-funded All Families resource for Trans and Gender Diverse (TGD) parents and their families that so many members of our community generously contributed to is nearly complete!


The resource has input from TGD community members, their families, and medical and psychological staff specialising in this area. The stories reflect a huge diversity of experience and provide invaluable ideas, advice and guidance to other TGD parents and potential parents, and those around them.


The project ended up being much bigger originally anticipated, due in large part to the complexity and richness of the participants’ stories.


The team are reviewing a final draft, and hope to launch it as part of a presentation at the Better Together conference in January.

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Advocacy update

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Advocacy update

Rainbow Families recently made a submission on behalf of our community to the Senate Inquiry into Legislative exemptions that allow faith-based educational institutions to discriminate against students, teachers and staff.

This Inquiry followed promises that ScoMo made that he would legislate so that schools wouldn’t be able to expel LGBTIQ+ kids, or fire school staff who are LGBTIQ+. The Government hadn’t done anything about this promise, and with Parliament ending for the year, there was an Inquiry moved to ensure this issue was addressed. 

Existing exemptions allow religious organisations to discriminate against our families by refusing to hire or to dismiss employees because they’re LGBTIQ+, or refusing enrolment to children with LGBTIQ+ parents, and expelling LGBTIQ+ kids. These rules unfairly target our families, and when we consulted earlier this year about this issue, overwhelmingly our community told us that they believe existing exemptions are unjust and discriminatory.

Religious and faith-based schools are granted large amounts of taxpayer funds to deliver services to the general public and are major employers. They should be required to deliver these services in a way that is equitable and accountable to the public. Such discrimination should not be supported by public funding. 

We argued that existing exemptions to anti-discrimination law unfairly target our community. And reiterated the views shared by out Victorian counterparts to the Inquiry hearing on 19 November 2018:

We support the removal of the existing exemptions in the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act that allow students and staff to be discriminated against in faith-based schools because of their sexual orientation, gender identify or relationship status. No exceptions and no additions. The removal of these exemptions should occur with no additions or grey areas. Just remove the exemptions. 

We strongly you urge you to consider that:

·         Our children should not and should never be discriminated against because of who they are or what kind of family they come from.

·         Any educational institution receiving government funding should not be allowed to discriminate due to a person’s sexuality, gender diversity, family structure or relationship status – be they a child, young person, family member, parent, carer or school staff member.

Thanks to everyone who shared their stories with us. It’s through telling our personal stories that we are able to make change!

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Rainbow Families Bingo

This month saw the first Rainbow Families Bingo fundraiser - and what a successful and fun afternoon it was.

The fabulous Penny T generously gave up her time to host the event, and run the day - and she managed to keep the content of the afternoon appropriate for the school aged audience. 

The Ritz in Marrickville kindly allowed us to take over the bistro area, and it was the perfect space for the 100 or so people that came to play bingo, and be with community. 

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Events like this take a lot of work behind the scenes to organise. A special thanks to Penny T, Jolene, Vanessa and Mat who all gave up their time to put on this fantastic afternoon.

A silent auction and raffle helped raise over $5,000 for Rainbow Families to continue to support the community in 2019. Congratulations to all of the people that won auction items, and to the raffle and bingo winners!

Thank you to all of the businesses that donated prizes for the silent auction. We were overwhelmed by the number of people within the community that were keen to support Rainbow Families by donating prizes. 

We plan on adding Bingo to the Rainbow Families calendar each quarter, so keep an eye out for the next one, and if you would like to donate a prize for the next silent auction please let us know.

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Volunteer Profile

Hayley Todd - Curran's Hill Playgroup coordinator

My wife and I have been together for 13 years and have a 2-year-old son, Nixon and fur child Lexi.  After moving a few times, we have set up our family in the expanding Sydney South West. 

Not long before Nixon was born, my wife was doing some research on community support available on the Rainbow Families website and stumbled across the Curran’s Hill Rainbow Playgroup. She knew this would appeal to me as we had already discussed joining a playgroup once Nixon was born. 

Right from my first visit I felt comfortable, welcomed and supported. As new parents, we were looking for a connection to families that reflect Nixon’s. Whilst playgroup offers a safe place for Nixon to socialise, learn new skills and play with other children, Curran’s Hill Rainbow Playgroup has provided Kelly and I a hub of support, knowledge, connections to other Rainbow Family events like the Christmas Party and more recently the Halloween disco, along with many new friendships.

I love the flexibility and all hands-on deck approach from parents, grandparents and caregivers to assist with set up, supervising activities, cutting up the fruit and pack up. A favourite with the kids is arts and crafts, music/ singing and of course morning tea.     

With many of our older playgroup friends heading off to big school in the new year, we would love to have new families come along and check out our playgroup. If you are new to the Macarthur area, have children 0-5 and free on a Wednesday morning from 10am to 12pm, we would love to meet you. The Curran’s Hill Rainbow Playgroup is a safe, supportive environment for babies, children and their parents. We are proudly supported by Rainbow Families and Playgroup NSW to provide an inclusive environment for families in Sydney’s South West. Should your children already be at school, please come along to a Macarthur Rainbow Families monthly catch up.  

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Our community won't tolerate discrimination.

A group of Anglican schools, many of them very prominent schools in Sydney, have written an open letter to Parliament, wanting to retain the right to expel children and young people who are same sex attracted and to dismiss or not employ teachers or other staff who are, or who do not espouse the ‘Christian values’ of the school.

Many members of our community are alumni of these schools, or have children attending these schools, or teach or have taught or worked in these schools. 

We need to let these schools know that their own school communities don’t tolerate discrimination.

If you are a member of these school communities, we are urging you to write to the Principal and to tell them that schools should not be able to discriminate against LGBTIQ+ people and our families.

 

Tips on writing the letter

Start off by letting the Principal know how you’re connected to the school

Are you a parent of a current child, alumni, former staff member? Did your parents or other family attend this school?


Tell your story

Personal stories are much more effective than proforma emails. Let them know how this affects you and your family on a personal level.
Discrimination is not a part of the Christian ethos. And expelling children because of who they are, or refusing their enrolment because of who their parents are, goes against every tenet of the Christian faith. 


Send a copy of your letter to your Federal MP

This legislation is going to come before the Parliament, and our MPs need to know just how this actually affects kids and families that they represent. 
You can look up contact details for Federal MPs and Senators here


Please also send us a copy of the letter

Rainbow Families would like to compile personal stories about how this affects our community. Let us know if you would rather be anonymous.

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Halloween Disco 

The annual Halloween Disco was an amazing afternoon of dancing and spooky fun this year again. 

Thanks to a generous donation from our friends at Macquarie Bank we were able to make this years’ Disco bigger and better than ever. There were jumping castles, ride on toys for the little kids, fancy face painters, cheese toasties, the huge accessible hall, St Johns Ambulance and some creative balloon twisting! 

Thank you to all that volunteered throughout the day. We can’t put on events like this without the help of our community. DJ Kate Monroe has been spinning fine tunes every year, Jolene organising drag queen performers, Diane, Tierney, Bern, Jess, James, Sam, Jude, Belinda, Cec, Giovanna, Rica, Charmaine, Mat, Glenda, Cathy, James, Justine, Bridget, and everyone else that helped out - Thank you. It takes a lot of hands to put on such a great day. If you would like to volunteer at future events please contact us.

We would love to hear from you about what you liked at the disco, and what you would like to see at next years’ Halloween Disco.

2 MINUTE SURVEY

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Illawarra Playgroup for LGBTIQA+ parents and their children

We have a new Rainbow Families playgroup starting in the Illawarra!!! Its for LGBTIQA+ parents and carers and their children birth to six years and its free to attend!

Playgroup will run each week throughout the school term in a purpose-built space at the University of Wollongong. The Early Start team at the uni are supporting us to create our own playgroup where rainbow families can meet up regularly and play, get to know each other better, and support each other and our kids. As a bonus, playgroup participants will also have free access to the adjacent Early Start Discovery Space, an amazing innovative playspace, after playgroup each week.

Check out the  Early Start and The Discovery Space for more information about the space.

When: Thursdays 1.30-3.30pm (during school term) commencing 18th October 2018

Where: Early Start, Building 21, University of Wollongong Main Campus, Northfields Avenue, Keiraville NSW 2522.

To come along to the new Rainbow Families of the Illawarra Playgroup, contact Jasmin. We have an info pack about attending with details on how to get there. And don’t forget to request to join the Facebook group

We hope to see you and your Rainbow Family there.

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Supporting LGBTQIA+ families and their lactation journeys

Gust Blog Post - Bridget Muir

Supporting LGBTQIA+ families and their lactation journeys

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Kia ora everyone!

I am a volunteer trained and accredited breastfeeding/chestfeeding/human milk feeling counsellor (which we call a Leader) with La Leche League International. La Leche League is an international volunteer non-for-profit organisation that is the leading organization in peer-to-peer support in human lactation and gentle parenting.

As part of my role I recently attended the 2018 La Leche League NZ Conference held in Christchurch Aotearoa/New Zealand. The aim of the conference is to bring counsellors together to connect and learn. I was also invited to do a talk on how individuals within lactation support can better support LGBTQIA+ (Rainbow) families. This topic is an area of passion for me, and the aim of my talk was to create impact and start conversations.

I felt intense emotion delivering this speech as I spoke with tears flowing down my cheeks infront of a room of 100 or so individuals. This was a message that needed to get out. Here’s a breakdown of what I spoke of:

The impact of gendered language

The talk opened up describing an experience some members of our community might feel when entering a space considered “woman’s only” and the impact of gendered language. In such spaces there is open language and assumptions made that all who attend are “mothers” and have “husbands” for support. It can often feel very exhausting and suffocating for some members of our community who are constantly hit by “the gender binary”: societies expectations and assumptions that you are either male or female. A lot of groups are called “mums and bubs” groups, but how does this impact someone who might not identify with the word “mum”, or someone who might feel both fluid. As an example. We know the gender spectrum is a wonderful kaleidoscope of experiences and identities, which is why it is important we listen to a variety of stories. I am merely 1 voice and by no means represent an entire spectrum!

Our LGBTQIA+ community and challenges faced

As well as explaining the meaning of the LGBTIQA+ acronym including the importance of the “plus” (which means all other identities) I spoke about the general challenges our communities face and how these might create barriers to access support:

  • Mental health challenges, higher suicide rates

  • Isolation and exclusion

  • Higher drug, alcohol and smoking rates

  • Poverty and Homelessness

  • Abuse of all kinds

  • Work discrimination, lower income and education outcomes

  • Breast and cervical cancer

This is to name a few, we know there are more!

Lactation specific challenges

I then spoke about specific lactation issues that many rainbow families may face in their journeys, including:

I explained that it has been found that language can be a huge barrier to accessing support and feeling part of a community in particular within the lactation world. It is important to remember that language evolves just as we humans have. Language is reflective of our diverse communities. Language creates impact. I then discussed the use of inclusive language.

What is inclusive language?

Inclusive language includes all and does not erase anyone. It is also about removing assumptions we make about people and getting to know each other at a deeper level.

For example:

“Good morning Ladies” - “Good morning everyone”

“Mothers group” - “Parents group” or (understanding that ALL identities are important) “Mothers, fathers, and parents group”

“Husbands and wives” - “partners” ….or I use “supports” a lot because this also takes away the assumption that everyone has a partner!

Sometimes the best way to use inclusive language is to add more words to what we usually say.

For example:

“Breastfeeding” - “human milk feeding” or “breastfeeding, chestfeeding, co nursing, nursing, exclusive pumping, use of supplemental nursing systems, mixed feeding, using donor milk”

Take home messages:

Finally, I spoke about some things that can done to support fellow rainbow families in their human milk feeding journeys: listening to their stories and acknowledging that their family is valid, thinking about the impact of language, the importance of education and having conversations, and being a true ally.

“And lastly…. Approaching with open hearts and open minds is always a good start. Humans are complex beings and we are storytellers by nature. We need our stories heard and be validated as living truths, to be proud and mostly importantly supported in life’s journey.”

More resources:

Facebook groups:

Birthing and Breast or Chestfeeding Trans People and Allies

Transfeminine breastfeeding and lactation support

Bodily Autonomy, Birth Justice and Infant Feeding

La Leche League Australia

Other:

LLLI Milk Donation and Sharing

Induced lactation and relactation list of resources

Information for transgender and gender diverse parents

Breastfeeding and parenting from a transgender perspective

*Please note some of the resource links I have provided may contain gendered language

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The challenges of becoming a gay dad

Guest Blogger Clinton Power talks about the challenges of becoming a gay dad

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The number of gay male couples that want to have children or already have children is on the rise in Australia.

Since the legalisation of gay marriage in Australia in 2017, same-sex relationships have finally received the recognition they have always deserved. And the good news is same-sex parenting is becoming more socially accepted and therefore increasingly possible.

It’s hard to quantify how many people are LGBTQIA and what exactly constitutes a family, but of 33,714 same-sex couples counted in the 2011 Australian census, 12% (just over 4,000) couples had dependent children living in their household. That means over 6,300 children are living in gay households. (These statistics don’t count LGBTQIA people in different-gender relationships, and therefore don’t provide an entire picture of the possibilities of LGBTQIA families.)

Research is showing that children of gay parents are just as happy and well-adjusted as kids with heterosexual parents. A recent Australian study showed that out of a sample of 500 children with same-gender parents, they did just as well on measures of child health and wellbeing as those with heterosexual parents.

Families with stable, loving relationships produce well-adjusted children, regardless of the gender of the parents. However, experiencing stigma and discrimination from others can have a detrimental effect on the emotional health of the entire family.

If you’re a man in a same-sex relationship and you’re looking at your options for childrearing, what do you need to know?

There are a number of both practical and psychological concerns when you’re a gay man looking to start a family.

Current challenges for new gay dads

While most same-sex families experience precisely the same hurdles as different-sex families, there are some challenges unique to the queer experience.

  • How are you going to have a baby? There are some different options for gay male couples, but some are more challenging than others. If you want to use a surrogate and have money exchange hands, you would have to go to another country, since that is illegal in Australia. Legal surrogacy is possible in Australia, but it’s challenging with a lot of legal hoops to jump through. Fostering by same-sex couples might be easier, since it is encouraged by many foster agencies. An adoption is also an option, but it has very long waiting periods and is not yet very common in Australia among same-sex couples. Other options can include co-parenting with another same-sex couple or opposite-sex couple. You’re going to have to weigh the pros and cons of your options to decide how you’re going to create your family.

  • You may feel a lack of social support services. Unfortunately, there are not many social services for gay dads in Australia yet. For example, some mothers’ groups don’t allow men to join, and this can be alienating and leave you without practical childrearing help.

  • You may feel a sense of isolation. Sadly, this is very common for many gay dads. Since you might not know any other gay parents who have been or are going through what you’re experiencing, this can be disheartening and lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

  • You may feel marginalized. Because you’re a minority among a minority, this means it’s even harder to find other gay dads like yourself. Only 3% of gay men in relationships have children, so you’re unlikely to find resources just for you.

  • You may lack family acceptance. As much as Australian society is progressing slowly with the acceptance of same-sex relationships and families, we still have a long way to go. If your parents and other family members don’t support your sexual orientation or your decision to start a family of your own, you may find yourself without an emotional support system to aid you in rough times. And without the practical help, you may need to raise a family and stay healthy (like grandparents babysitting), this can create added stress.

  • You may feel that you have to contend with traditional gender roles. In traditional, heterosexual families, the father tends to be the breadwinner/authoritarian and the mother is the homemaker/nurturer. However, gay families don’t have these preconceived notions about who does what, and therefore child rearing takes constant negotiation. You may feel pressure to reproduce these roles, but it’s an opportunity to create a family free of heteronormative ideas about relationships. The study mentioned above found that this lack of gender stereotyping actually increased familial harmony and wellbeing.

Issues that can arise when you become a gay dad

Gay male dads experience many of the same issues that straight couples have, mainly stemming from the problem of the baby taking up much of the couple’s time—resulting in stress and sleep deprivation.

Issues include:

  • A change in relationship dynamics. It’s hard to predict what effects the addition of a child will have on you and your partner, but it’s almost sure that you will encounter some new differences in the way you relate to each other. Additional stresses can cause increase conflict and emotional stress.

  • A decrease in libido or frequency of sex. The stress of raising a child and the lack of alone time may lead to a dip in your sex life, leading to feelings of estrangement from your partner and problems with intimacy.

  • A lack of one-on-one adult time like date nights. It’s important to make sure that you have time to enjoy adults-only pleasures like dinner dates and movies to boost your relationship with your partner and keep things going strong as you raise a child. Investing in a babysitter is a smart investment for your relationship.

Tips for new gay dads

When you and your partner are prepared for changes once you become dads, the better off your family will be in the long run.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if you’re about to become gay dads:

  • Be prepared for a lot of changes in the relationship. It’s impossible to know in advance how having a child will affect your relationship so prepare for any possibility. Make sure your relationship is strong enough to weather these changes.

  • Find support in your new life. Make sure you join a gay dads group in your local area or city, like Rainbow Families in Sydney or Gay Dads Australia.

  • Surround yourself with supportive family and friends. Establish an emotional and practical support system that consists of your most accepting and helpful family and friends.

  • Have a budget for a babysitter. Even though you’re new parents, you also need to have date nights and alone time with your partner. Adult time together will help you keep your relationship healthy, for the sake of yourself and your children.

  • Focus on good communication. Take the time to sit down and communicate with each other to avoid misunderstandings and reduce conflict. It’s important to be a great role model for your children, but it’s also essential for your relationship to be the best you can be at interpersonal skills.

  • Take turns with childcare to give your partner a break. For example, book a spa treatment for your spouse while you take your child to the park. Raising a child should involve an equal commitment from both partners, so make sure that one person isn’t doing all the work.

If you’re a new dad and you’re struggling with communication in your relationship, consider relationship therapy to help you navigate the changes in your relationship and to strengthen your emotional and sexual connection. Relationship therapy with a gay-informed therapist can be an excellent investment in the future of your family.

About Clinton Power  

Clinton has worked as a relationship therapist and counsellor with LGBTQIA individuals and couples since 2003. He is the founder of  Sydney Gay Counselling, a private practice dedicated to helping Sydney LGBTQIA people who want to create a great gay life. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship, has been downloaded over 5000 times with over 80% 5-star reviews. Visit his website www.sydneygaycounselling.com to find out more.

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Big Brighter Sparkly Days Camp 2018

The more risks you allow children to take, the better they learn to take care of themselves - Roald Dahl

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As the sun was fading over the Hawkesbury River, some 50 children and their families arrived at the old fishing village of Brooklyn to catch a ferry to the “Big Bright Sparkly Days” event, a Rainbow Families’ weekend camp about resilience for school aged children.

The camp program was designed to support children to develop the building blocks for resilience, and space for parents to share their stories and their hopes for their parenting and their children. Many parents saw their children try new things, make new friends, and they themselves made new connections.

For many, it was also an opportunity to feel a sense of belonging and solidarity, to be authentic and be able to share some of the challenges of parenting, our fears and our hopes for our families.

“Spending time with my children, in beautiful nature and in such an inclusive and friendly setting”

Parent feedback

We arrived in the beautiful Broken Bay Sports and Recreation Centre, walking in the dark to the main dining room where dinner was cooked and waiting, and a huge fireplace invited us to feel at home.

Resilience as a concept

When we talk about a child’s resilience, we mean a child’s ability to cope with ups and downs, and bounce back from the challenges they experience during childhood. For example, moving home, changing schools, studying for an exam or dealing with the death of a loved pet or even the rejection of a friendship.

During the planning for this camp, we thought about the stormy times that our community faced in 2017 and the importance of offering opportunities to build new skills, particularly resiliency.

Building resilience helps children not only to deal with current difficulties that are a part of everyday life, but also to develop the basic skills and habits that will help them deal with challenges later in life, during adolescence and even in adulthood.

Our camp offered opportunities for children to build these skills in spades. Children were invited to challenge themselves and take part in new things like archery, facing fears like the flying fox, working in teams with activities like raft building.

Children and families were also invited to take responsibility and be part of keeping the camp organised and tidy. Prior to the camp, children were encouraged to pack their own bags and be responsible because being resilient also means taking responsibility for our actions, having a healthy outlook on life, accepting ourselves and moving forward even after failure, disappointment, or other difficulties.

There were lots of opportunities for that during the weekend, even for the adults. A last-minute change of venue proved tricky and confirmed that we can find ways to make things work even when they don’t go to plan.

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The Rainbow Families Youth Advisory Council

Our Youth Advisory Council is developing the leadership skills of our children and young people. During the camp the young leaders from the Council acted as cheerleaders and support people to younger children. They were also buddies, and organised the Saturday night special dinner.

In future we hope to develop and expand their role.

The beach setting of the camp

What was special about this camp is that we had the whole beautiful beach location to ourselves. We didn’t have to cook and the camp plan genuinely embraced diversity. Many experienced the camp and its beach setting as relaxing and friendly.

There were 23 family groups comprising of  5 trans and gender diverse-parented families, 6 single-parented families, and 11 families from towns outside of Sydney or rural communities, and for a lot of 9 year old kids!.

Unfortunately the bonfire on the beach couldn’t proceed because it started to rain. So, instead we roasted marshmallows over the indoor fireplace and had a great game of Kid’s Trivia facilitated by Kid’s Trivia Master Paul Upcroft.

Parent Experience

Those that attended have reported that it felt safe, supportive and a much-needed event.

‘It was wonderful for my boys to be able to hang with other kids and embrace

a range of positive risk-taking activities, make personal connections and engage

in good old-fashioned fun without parents having to be involved and spoil the experience.’ Parent feedback

 

‘We loved the fact that there was no technology, which enabled our kids to get creative and make their own games and entertain themselves.’ Parent feedback

Many parents spoke about sometimes feeling invisible as rainbow parents, or judged, alone, or about the weight of upholding a reputation as a perfect parent in the face of some discrimination. Many spoke about feeling they could be themselves at camp.

Children Experience

Children had the opportunity to participate in a packed program.

Many said they enjoyed the canoeing, archery and raft building activities, flying fox, and craft activities.  Some enjoyed the bunk beds and the trivia night. All mentioned that they liked being with other kids, making new friends and being independent.

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The camp was a technology free space, and during the small times of free time there were spontaneous games of Monopoly, celebrity head, colouring-in, making friendship bracelets, and tip in the dark.

A highlight for many of the children was the self service food, being able to sit with other children at mealtimes, and the very fun time ‘riding’ the cutlery trolley around the common dinning room

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Camp organiser Sarah-Louise Hopkins

Sarah-Louise has a background in early childhood education, and has organised many a camp. She organised a packed weekend, ran activities for the younger children and kept the program on track. Children that attended may remember learning to sing “I’m alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic!”

Volunteer Tierney Malay

Tierney is an experienced Girl Guides leader and worker in diversity and inclusion and gave up her weekend to run interesting activities for the junior children. She led a lively bushwalk and many arts and craft and team building workshops.

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Children and Parent Resilience Workshops

“ How are you like your child self?”

The camp program was designed around the work on resilience by Beyond Blue. As a Social Worker with experience in working with children and groupwork, I enjoyed planning the workshops.  During the workshop we used the metaphor of a plane journey. The story resonated for many.  

A favourite time of the camp was sitting on the grassy hill beside the beach; a circle of parents talking. We started the session with this question; “ How are you like your child self?” Parents were invited to reflect on their strengths, their support crew and outside events and systems that impact on our lives as parents. While many said they felt nervous walking into a circle with butcher’s paper, there is a desire for more opportunities to have these conversations with each other.

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The Children’s workshops were held in two groups. One session was held at the beach and children were invited to think about ways they had surprised themselves over the weekend, and areas of resilience they find tricky. Some kids wanted to work on ‘confidence’, others on ‘organisation’, other’s on ‘ friends and getting along’.

When you ask kids for their opinion and or their feelings, they can be so insightful and can help each other find solutions to tricky problems. They can also be the first ones to point out strengths to a child who lacks the confidence to name it. In the second group, we used Bear Cards and children did just that! Children as young as 5 give advice to older children; from how to deal with bullying or someone who doesn’t want to share.

I came away feeling there is so much more we can do to offer children opportunities to share their stories, their feelings and ideas. Parents too need a safe space.

Rica Seeto and Ashley Scott

Rica organised all the accounts for the event and Ashley supported the camp’s planning.

Volunteers were at the heart of making this camp happen and I want to say a big thank you to everyone who gave up their time prior to the event as well as on the camp weekend.

We offer our heartfelt thanks to Sarah, Tierney, Rica, Paul, and Ashley for contributing to this camp. Thanks to all the parents and children who shared the experience.

The final day

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After a richly packed weekend, the kids gathered to play beach volleyball, a parent played the guitar, and adults chatted. On the packed ferry trip home, with the wind blowing our hair, some on the upper deck were taking a last picture of the national park left behind, taking home memories, new ideas, pride in trying something new ,in our children, some new connections, and feeling of belonging in our community.

 

Vanessa Gonzalez

Happy parent Camper / workshop facilitator

September 2018

This camp was generously supported by LUSH Cosmetics.  We are compiling a detailed evaluation report based on participant feedback to inform future events. We hope this camp starts of a tradition of many more camps for our community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trans and Gender Diverse Parents Workshop Update

Trans and Gender Diverse (TGD) parents and carers, partners and ex-partners met during the Big Bright Sparkly Days camp at Broken Bay. They form an important minority of families under the Rainbow Families umbrella, and are appreciative that the greater Rainbow Families community has acknowledged that they are in many ways distinct from LGB families, and has shown such support in crowd-funding the upcoming All Families guide to assist families like theirs.

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As part of developing content for this guide, the group considered what would make lives easier, better and happier for them as families with TGD parents and carers.

This covered the importance of language and spaces to be inclusive of all identities, especially taking into account the views of children when a parent or carer transitions. Feelings of isolation were noted, especially by those living away from Sydney’s Inner West, and those affected by intersectional issues such as being a single parent. Interacting with the school system was also covered – both positive and negative stories – with a view to improving such important situations for children, parents and carers in the future.

The group noted that increasingly TGD people have pride in their identities, as opposed to the shame that has been a major issue in the past. This is creating more out and visible TGD role models, and bodes well for the future.

A number of recommendations were made by the group, which the Rainbow Families committee are considering in order to better provide support for our TGD families.

The group also discussed existing support groups outside of Rainbow Families for the TGD individuals and their partners, coming up with some thoughts on how to evolve this to better support the diversity within our relationships.

The camp was an amazing opportunity for children in these families to be together with others who have families similar to theirs – in one case for the first time ever. Such connections are at the heart of what is so important about Rainbow Families.

The All Families Resource is being researched and written by Jac Tomlins. Jac has prepared case studies on eight TGD parents and their families, which will form the bulk of the resource. These are being complied into a much needed resource for the growing number of TGD parents within the Rainbow Families Community.

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